“I’ve always been openly gay. I’ve always been out and about in clubs. I’ve always been very interested in stories featuring gay characters for myself to play, and I’ve always been very interested and concerned when I see phobia and unfairness,” Rupert Everett tells Metrosource. “I’ve spent a lot of time – a few years back – in Russia working. I worked for UN AIDS for a while, so I became very aware of the situation in Russia for gay and lesbian and transgender people. In fact, next week I’m going to the last ever LGBTQ film festival in St. Petersburg because Putin has banned it.”
But what drew Everett to write, direct and star in The Happy Prince, this year’s stirring movie about the last days of Oscar Wilde? “I think the thing that’s most fascinating about him, from all of our point of views in this community is that really his life in Paris, his life in exile, is the portrait of the first out gay man in modern history in that – until Oscar Wilde – homosexuality wasn’t actually a word even. It certainly wasn’t a thing that was discussed. No woman would have even imagined that there was any type of sexuality between men, and straight men would not have discussed it either. So Oscar Wilde’s scandal meant that Oscar Wilde, after he came out of prison — being famous, despite there being no photographs or television or anything like that: he was still a very famous man. He was known by the world at large, not just his friends, the whole world. They could see him across the boulevard walking along and know that was a homosexual man. This was the first time that had ever happened. And, as they say in Latin: nomen est numen — to name is to know. And once it was named, that was really the beginning of the gay liberation movement. Those are the footprints that we in the LGBTQ community are walking in now.
“So it’s a really interesting story for us, and I feel the one thing that’s missing in the constitution of this — or one of the things that’s missing in the constitution of this virtual world we’re now living in — is that history has just been elbowed out of the way. History, really, for us now is something that happened two years ago. Scream 2 is an old film — not even Scream 1. And I think for our community, history is vital. It gives us a context. It gives us an opportunity to know how far we’ve travelled and to feel empowered by that. And it also gives us the opportunity to feel vigilant about keeping hold of what we’ve already got. But it gives us a way of looking at the problems facing us now — because of course there are still problems. It gives us a kind of victorious way of dealing with our problems because I believe we have the weight of history behind us. This is terribly important. It gives us a feeling, I think, of helping our feet stand on the ground proud. In that sense, this story, to me, is a terribly important one because it’s the beginning of that journey. So I’m hoping that my enthusiasm and fascination for it is going to cross over the footlights and into the hearts of the audience, and obviously I’m particularly keen to show it to young people.”
How does Everett think Wilde should be remembered? “I think he is the Christ figure of the gay and lesbian and transgender movement in that his crucifixion at the hands of society is what enabled us to be born and to start having an identity and to start fighting for that identity and striving for all the equalities and the human rights that we are getting — slowly but surely and faster and faster. We’ve got to feel fantastic about where we are now in America and in the UK; we’ve got so many things that are going on including a transgender senator and we’ve got Troy [Fall of a City] and we’ve got RuPaul’s Drag Race. We’ve got so many things happening, a ton of films being made about stuff like that, but things are really moving and I think we should be very excited about that, and obviously we have to be vigilant about the future because things can change really easily, but at the same time, it’s important to celebrate where we’ve got to.”
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Last modified: January 14, 2019